Anne Rice: No Longer Queen of Halloween
By Victor Lana
Author Anne Rice, who became famous writing about vampires, has told Newsweek that her new book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, is told from the perspective of Jesus. “I promised that from now on I would write only for the Lord,” Rice says, no doubt surprising her legions of loyal fans who are still eagerly awaiting another installment of the Vampire Chronicles. This new book, narrated by seven year old Jesus, is something decidedly different.
As someone who devoted a number of years in his doctoral research to Rice’s work (eventually writing Gothic Feminism in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles), I am not at all surprised by this turn of events. In fact, besides immortal vampires and their predominantly feminist history, one of the recurrent themes I found in the novels (I only focused on the first three books in my doctoral work) was the reaction of vampires to their lost faith.
Lestat, actually the supernatural male embodiment of Rice herself, explores his feelings about Catholicism. In one memorable scene he takes the ciborium from a tabernacle and fondles the sacred hosts. Lestat finds nothing there: no power, no fear, no god. Yet, despite his not being repelled by the cross or the Eucharist (as in typical vampire lore), Lestat is not convinced there is no god, but believes that he just cannot find evidence of the creator’s existence in the real world.
This certainly mirrors the struggle Rice faced herself. Referring to her state of mind while writing Interview with the Vampire and the other vampire books, the author explains that for a long time she had spiritual doubts. “I was in despair,” she says about these years. Those familiar with her books will recognize this, for her main characters are often in turmoil, struggling with the limitations and benefits of being vampires while in some way or other still longing to be human. In The Tale of the Body Thief her alter ego Lestat experiments with becoming human again, but finds after switching bodies with a human (someone who turns out to be more evil than he could ever be) that he prefers his life as one of the undead. My, how times have changed.
At 65 years old, Anne Rice is certainly facing a different chapter in her life. After surviving a life altering medical problem as well as losing her husband Stan Rice, she returned to her Catholic faith. She is not the first writer to have questions about faith or even to leave it and then return years later. What is extremely intriguing is that she has chosen to incorporate her religious reawakening into her work.
Rice knows that her longstanding fan base may be more than a little disturbed by her switching gears like this. She tells them, “You may not want what I’m doing next,” but also feels that readers will find something tangibly similar in her new books (she plans three sequels about the life of Christ) that they sought in her tales of vampires, demons, warlocks, and witches. Rice says that Christ is “the ultimate immortal of them all.” Whether or not her fans will accept this or not is yet to be seen.
I can only say that I anxiously await an opportunity to read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. After reading so many works by this author, I look forward to seeing how she has changed her direction while feeling confident I will be still drawn in by her preternatural prose.
Copyright © Victor Lana 2005